For the second straight summer, the Dallas Mavericks off season acquisitions have failed to live up to the personnel overhaul fans hoped for following the exodus of players like Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler who helped Mark Cuban win the franchise’s first NBA title in 2011.
The Mavs were temporarily in the running for the big free agent signings of this summer, but Dwight Howard wound up in Houston and Chris Paul stayed in Los Angeles, leaving the Mavs short of signing a player that can give them a real chance of breaking back into the postseason in a tough Western Conference.
The reason isn’t necessarily a lack of talent and certainly not an inability to score the basketball, but instead the fact that the Mavs have no players who can showcase their defensive skill as a major strength. From one to four, the projected Mavs starting lineup is comprised of players predominately known for the offense.
The biggest defensive weakness will be their inability to protect new center Samuel Dalembert from speedy guards like Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook. Dalembert is a decent shot blocker and rebounder, but with Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis in front of him, the Mavericks have a terrible pair of backcourt defenders that between them average as many steals per game as division rival Mike Conley by himself.
Ellis and Calderon have never been known for their defense and in the front court, starting small forward Shawn Marion and power forward Dirk Nowitzki have that same distinction. Dirk’s struggles to play like a seven footer have been well documented throughout his career and though Marion is a solid veteran to have around, the Mavs won’t be helped by the 34-year old’s inability to shut down faster opponents. Unless the Mavs can score 120 points per game the way Houston did last season with the league’s worst defense, it’s hard to see how they can even sniff the eight seed.
Coming off the bench the Mavs don’t have a real scary presence either offensively or defensively other than Vince Carter and possibly rookies Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo depending how they pan out. The fact is that this Mavs team was assembled out of pieces the team seemed to settle for rather than actively target and pursue.
In the Western Conference, not even brilliant coaching from Rick Carlisle will allow the Mavericks to compete. It is the final year of Dirk Nowitzki’s contract, a factor that undoubtedly led to the team to frantically pursue some sort of free agent signings that could make them better this summer. But getting Ellis, Calderon and Dalembert won’t be enough. They will find themselves clawing for that eight seed again, this time with the Lakers, Blazers, Nuggets all right there with them. Dallas doesn’t have the pieces to go far, ultimately leading to a disappointing final year for Nowitzki.
In truth, this was something the Mavs should have accepted after failing to sign Howard. If Dallas had simply tanked and waited for Nowitzki, Carter and Marion’s contracts to expire, they would of had a good shot at a high draft pick and a ton of money spend next summer. They will still have plenty to spend next summer and a decent pair of guards to work with, but after this season, defensive specialists will be very high on Rick Carlisle’s list of needs.